This essay was commissioned by Deborah Bird Rose and Thom van Dooren for a 2011 special issue of the journal Australian Humanities Review, entitled Unloved Others: Death of the Disregarded in the Time of Extinctions. This was a landmark volume in the emerging interdisciplinary field of ‘multispecies studies’, which Rose and van Dooren helped to found. Bringing ecological ethics into conversation with history, ethnography, conservation biology, and sometimes also literature and the arts, multispecies studies is concerned with decolonising the frontier between human and other species in the interests of collective ecological flourishing. The brief for Unloved Others was to uncover stories of interspecies entanglement entailing species that are commonly ignored or reviled, and to do so in such a way that makes explicit the researcher’s own involvement in this narrative. My essay focusses on a species that I knew as a very ‘unloved other’ in the course my childhood in Canberra: the bogong moth (Agrotis infusa), a migratory insect, currently in steep decline. Following a brief survey of the scientific literature on the moth, I discuss historical and anthropological sources that highlight its crucial significance as food for the Aboriginal peoples of the Canberra region. The case of the bogong moth reveals how, as the colonial frontier advanced, the delicate multispecies relations that sustained the cultures and ecologies of this continent were ruptured. The essay concludes with a proposal, at once ethical and culinary, for restoring the fortunes of the moth that also honours Indigenous heritage.
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